Magnus Møller Ziegler

Main Areas of Research

History of nineteenth-century German thought

My main area of interest is the history of German philosophy and political thought, specifically in the nineteenth century. I have a wide range of competences regarding this period, which I have specialised in to the greatest extent possible since my early days as an undergraduate.

From Kant and his copernican turn of critical philosophy, through the zenit of German Idealism with Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, and through to the likes of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, I find this period in the history of Western philosophy to be on par with classical Greece and Rennaissance Italy. Marking the beginning of Northern European modernity, this golden age of European culture continues to fascinate me — Hegel especially so.

However, my expertise is not limited to the history of German philosophy in the period, but also includes the general history of political and intellectual debates in the German speaking territories. From debates over the Jewish question and constitutionalism to press freedom, aesthetics, and the role of intellectuals in the 1848-49 revolutions, I have broad interest in and knowledge about the intellecual discourse of especially Vormärz Germany.

Hegelians and Hegelianism

Within this broader field, the first of my main interests and specific expertises is Hegelianism. While this of course also includes a solid knowledge of and interest in Hegel himself and his philosophy, my research interests are actually more focused on Hegelianism and the Hegelians, i.e., the philosophical school(s) that Hegel inspired and their pupils. Or more broadly: the contemporary reception of Hegel's thought. I am especially interested in Hegelian theories of politics and history, how the development of this thought interacted with German society, and how it was received politically, socially, and culturally.

In my research, I mainly work on Young Hegelianism, though I am also interested in the formation of the Hegelian school more broadly. I am interested both in the philosophies and theories of the many individual Young Hegelians, but also more generally in trying to define what being a Young Hegelian really means — what sets Young Hegelianism apart from your average old Hegelianism? What makes it ‘Young’? There has been an unfortunate tendency in the literature to one the one hand uniformly employ the term ‘Young Hegelian’ as a common denominator, while on the other hand claiming that there actually was no unified theory to Young Hegelianism. This is a conceptual deficiency in the historiography of mid-nineteenth-century German philosophy which bears rectifying.

Karl Marx

The second of my main interests and specific expertises within the field of German nineteenth-century thought is Karl Marx. Marx was, of course, part of the Young Hegelian group, but I find it to be a fundamental concern to research on Young Hegelianism that we do not view the it through the twin lenses of Marx and Marxism. I am interested in Marx as a Young Hegelian, but I am not interested in the Young Hegelians because of Marx.

However, even disregarding his Young Hegelian tendencies I am also super interested in Marx's thinking as such. His ideas and analyses continue to be fruitful and hold relevance to this day, and in my book he is the last great theoretician of German idealism (or maybe rather: its realisation and antipode).

My Ph.D. project combines this interest in Marx with my intest in the Young Hegelians. In my dissertation, I attempt the argument that Marx in some meaningful and substantial way continued to be a Young Hegelian throughout his life. I thereby challenge the commonly held notion of a ‘break’ in Marx’s thought. I do this by attempting to identify three central problems (the unification of the particular with the universal; the end of philosophy; the realisation of human freedom) and three central concepts (sublation; critique; praxis) that define Young Hegelianism and then tracing them in Marx’s mature work, specifically Capital, vol. 1.

Download description of my Ph.D. project

Edgar Bauer

A final research interest of mine — which is really my pet project turned major spare time obsession — is the Young Hegelian philosopher, writer, and political theorist (or terrorist) and Marx’s long-time drinking buddy, Edgar Bauer.

Edgar Bauer was the younger brother of the much more famous theologian and philosopher Bruno Bauer, Marx’s personal friend and Doktorvater and an outstanding leader in the Young Hegelian movement. Edgar was his staunch supporter (visible not least in one of his major early works, Bruno Bauer und seine Gegner, 1842), but as is often the case with epigones, his own variant of Bruno’s philosophy was much more radical. He is the Engels to Bruno’s Marx. But Edgar was also a bully, an Anarchist (before there was such a thing), a free-thinker, and a proponent of violent terrorism against the establishment. He got drunk all the time, got in fights with uppity law students, and had pornographic images on his bedroom walls.

He was also a police spy.

Between 1851 and 1860, Edgar Bauer wrote more than 2,000 manuscript pages of reports from his exile in London to the Copenhagen police commissioner, Cosmus Bræstrup, reporting mostly on the activities of exiled, continental revolutionaries in Britain. (These reports are now held in the Danish National Archives, and no-one has ever done a substantive investigation of them.) Later, he became a staunch public advocate of the Danish state, a spin-doctor for ethnically Danish politicians in Prussia, and a reactionary, Protestant propagandist working out of Northern Germany.

I can say with great confidence that I am one of the world’s top-5 experts on Edgar Bauer, but then again that does not say much: I own and have read all scholarly literature ever written on Edgar Bauer, which amounts to some 500 pages altogether. He is a completely fascinating character to me, and one day I am going to organise a conference on him and get together with the four other guys who have heard of him and it is going to be fantastic.


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Areas of Competence and Interest

Misc.

As any academic, I am also interested in stuff way outside my field. For me, that includes a lot of historical topics, e.g., the early American republic (especially the life and works of Thomas Jefferson), the history of the Ottoman Empire, and Roman history, especially the late Republic. I am also really interested in learning more about the Holy Roman Empire as well as early Renaissance Italy.

I am generally fascinated by the institutionalisation of systems of thought. Some examples could be the role of Marxism in the Eastern Bloc, the promotion of Hegelianism in Prussia, or of Aristotelianism in medieval Scholasticism.

Similarly, I also find the various attempts to establish radically new forms of polities incredibly interesting: The American Revolution, the October Revolution, the Fascist societies of 1930s and 40s Europe — these are all examples of peoples trying to establish more or less competely new or fresh ways of life vastly different from our own, both politically and culturally.

Finally, I am also very interested in Scandinavian cultural history. While a bleeding Marxist on the outside, I am really a conservative national-romantic on the inside, completely in love with Norse mythology, ancient stone dolmen and burial mounds, and Norse literature like the Icelandic Sagas. I also absolutely love Danish 'Golden Age' (c. 1800-1860) poetry and art, and I am quite knowledgeable on the intellectual discourse of the period (which is highly connected to the German discourse)


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